Syrian army encircles Daesh militants in desert: monitor

(Google Maps)
Updated 24 August 2017
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Syrian army encircles Daesh militants in desert: monitor

BEIRUT: Syrian troops backed by Russian warplanes completely surrounded fighters of the Daesh group in a vast central desert region on Thursday, a monitoring group said.
Advancing overnight, troops north and south of the Badiya desert area met up and seized Jabal Dahek, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
By encircling them, the government forces dealt a “strategic” blow to the Daesh jihadists, said the Britain-based Observatory.
They have been battling for months to retake the Badiya, which stretches from the country’s center to the Iraqi and Jordanian borders and has been held by Daesh since 2014.
Fighting was still raging between the two sides near Sukhnah, one of the main towns in the desert area.
Victory over Daesh in the region is seen as key to the army’s hopes of retaking Deir Ezzor, the last Syrian province that remains nearly completely under Daesh control.
The jihadists have long surrounded government forces in the province’s capital city, also named Deir Ezzor.
Analysts say the Syrian army needs to completely eliminate Daesh from the central part of the desert before it can attack Deir Ezzor, otherwise its troops would be exposed.
According to Fabrice Balanche, an expert on Syrian geography, the regime would have more than half of the country’s territory under its control if it can drive Daesh out of the Badiya.
More than 330,000 people have been killed since Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011 with protests against President Bashar Assad.


NZ’s foreign minister arrives in Turkey for Muslim summit

Updated 55 min 39 sec ago
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NZ’s foreign minister arrives in Turkey for Muslim summit

  • The meeting comes days after the deadly terrorist attack at two mosques in New Zealand
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will also speak at the summit

ISTANBUL: New Zealand’s deputy prime minister is attending an emergency session of an umbrella organization of Muslim nations in Turkey after a gunman killed 50 people in two mosques in the South Pacific nation.
Winston Peters was in Istanbul on Friday for the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s executive committee meeting.
Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant was arrested and charged with murder. Tarrant livestreamed the attack and released a manifesto describing his white supremacist views and how he planned the shootings.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who will also speak at the summit, has sparked outrage abroad by screening at campaign rallies excerpts of the Tarrant’s video to denounce Islamophobia. New Zealand has been trying to prevent the use of the video and Peters is expected to take up the issue.